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Lincoln Park Native JoJo Settles Among Gorillas At Brookfield Zoo

JoJo, 32 (right) and Kamba, 8, western lowland gorillas at Brookfield Zoo. (Credit: Brookfield Zoo)

JoJo, 32 (right) and Kamba, 8, western lowland gorillas at Brookfield Zoo. (Credit: Brookfield Zoo)

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BROOKFIELD, Ill. (CBS) — A gorilla named JoJo has traded the north lakefront for the southwest suburbs, as he takes over the leadership and breeding roles at Brookfield Zoo.

As WBBM Newsradio’s John Cody reports, JoJo is 32 years old, and is already a Chicagoan – his permanent home is at the Lincoln Park Zoo, where he was born.

LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio’s John Cody reports

He was brought to Brookfield Zoo to breed with three female gorillas. So far, zoo officials say, it’s looking good.

“I think the girls have really taken to him,” said Brookfield Zoo associate primate curator Craig Demetros. “For us to get him here, again, a very good genetic match. He’s 32 years old. He’s a very experienced silverback, so he knows what to do in a group.”

Demetros says it does look like JoJo is relaxing into his new Brookfield home, judging by the speed with which he settles into his morning nap between breakfast and lunch.

Demetros hopes JoJo produces five or six baby western lowland gorillas over the next 10 years.

JoJo was born at the Lincoln Park Zoo in 1980. His father, Fred, was born in the wild in Cameroon, and gained notoriety more than a quarter century ago for escaping his habitat.

Fred; his female companion, Kisuma; and JoJo’s half-sister, Hope, walked out an open door in their habitat one day in April 1986 and found their way into a maintenance area in the old Lester Fisher Great Ape House, which has since been demolished and replaced with a new facility.

As zookeeper Jim Higgins tried to coax Fred and his family back into their habitat, Fred bit Higgins and broke his left hand, according to a Chicago Tribune report at the time.

One of JoJo’s early neighbors, a silverback named Otto, gained even more notoriety for escaping the ape house altogether and taking a stroll around the zoo in 1982.

JoJo moved to the St. Louis Zoo with his father and a group of several other gorillas in 1986. He also spent time at the Zoo in Topeka, Kansas, before returning to the Lincoln Park Zoo briefly in 2002.

JoJo then spent two years at the Louisville Zoo while Lincoln Park worked on its new Regenstein Center for Great Apes. He returned to Lincoln Park when the new facility opened in 2004.

JoJo already has two children of his own at Lincoln Park. One of them, a 9-year-old male named Azizi is now part of a group of four bachelor gorillas at the zoo – along with fellow zoo native Amare and two other gorillas that were brought in from other zoos. JoJo’s daughter, Susie, also remains at the Lincoln Park Zoo.

On April 10 of this year, the Lincoln Park Zoo held a public farewell event for JoJo and two other gorillas who moved away this year.

Western lowland gorillas are native to West Africa. They are endangered due to habitat destruction from logging, the effects of wars and refugees, the illegal pet trade, and poaching for bushmeat – the last of which is increasing in demand among urban customers, Brookfield Zoo said.